Photographing Mount Rainier

Before the pictures get too old and the mountains erode down to nubs, I thought I’d honor the promise I made July 31 to publish a gallery of photos from our trip to Mount Rainier National Park near Seattle.

I always feel self-conscious about shooting photos in famous national parks because they have been photographed so many times. I hardly took a frame when I took a trip to Yosemite in the late 90. I kept saying to myself, “Do you REALLY think Ansel Adams hasn’t done that better?”

So, to avoid competition, I find myself focusing (pun intended) on the human landscape when it’s available. At least I can be pretty sure nobody else has shot it before, not will they be able to shoot it later.

I look for non-touristy details

Everybody shoots the mountains, and I have to admit to getting in a few frames of them if only to prove I was there, but I like to concentrate on the details that I hope other tourists will overlook.

Black and white photography depends on subtle tones of black, white and gray to convey a message. As a black & white shooter at heart, it’s taking me a while to learn how to add subtle color shadings to the mix. That’s why you’ll see that many of my images are primarily monochromatic photos with a splash of color here or there.

Mount Rainer Photo Gallery

Not all of these photos are spectacular, but if you’ve been considering a trip to Mount Rainier, they’ll give you an idea of what you might see. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the left or right side to move through the gallery.

Other Seattle photos and stories

Time Change Is Killing Me

I grew up in Cape, which is in the Central Time Zone. In 1967, and from there on, I’ve lived in the Eastern Time Zone. That’s an hour of sleep I’ll never get back.

This week, Wife Lila and I have been in the Pacific Time zone. We get up at Pacific Daily Savings Time, which is four hours behind Eastern Time (7 am in Seattle is like Florida’s 10 am). That’s the good news.

It feels like 3 in the morning

The bad news is that we just got in from touring Mt. Rainier National Park at 12:30 am, which feels like like 3:30 am. That’s why you’re getting one picture tonight.

I hope it displays OK. It looks good on the camera’s LCD screen, but editing photos on my laptop is a little iffy. I’ll have more shots if we get home at a decent hour tomorrow (today).

Photo tip stuff

I was shooting standard wideangle shots of the mountain when I noticed this snag of a tree.  I zoomed in on it and exposed for the bark of the tree, which caused the mountain to “blow out” a little bit. By focusing on the tree, the mountain went slightly out of focus. There was a bit of haze, so it wouldn’t have been sharp even if I wanted it to be. There’s enough contrast between the rock and the snow to let you know that it’s a mountain. The setting sun is just catching the tops of some of the trees, which adds a bit of color and is more interesting than if the bottom half of the photo had gone pure black.

Photo Tip: The Illusion of Speed

Many photographers think that faster shutter speeds are better. It’s true that a fast shutter speed will minimize camera shake on your end and subject movement on the far end. That’s usually a good thing. It can also be a formula for a dull photo. I was walking around Franklin School shooting an update now that construction of the new building is under way. (I’ll publish those photos in a day or so. I figure everybody is busy blowing things up this weekend, so I may hold off posting until there is someone around to see it.)

This cute little bunny rabbit was chowing down on the clover along the terrace in front of the school. I shot a quick frame and kept walking to go up the stairs to photograph the main entrance and flag pole. The bunny is reasonably sharp and relatively well exposed. It’s also not very interesting, unless, of course, you care more about bunnies than I do. (You might have a better idea what I’m talking about if you click on the image to make it larger.)

How to capture a feeling of speed

First off, I’m going to confess that this photo of the rabbit blasting out is an example of instinct and luck. I didn’t plan it. HAD I planned it, here are some things I would have done:

  • I would have picked a relatively show shutter speed.
  • I would have put the moving subject in the middle of the frame.
  • I would have opened the shutter when the subject was slightly less than 90 degrees from me.
  • I would have panned (followed) the subject at the same speed it was moving.
  • I would have continued the pan until I heard the shutter close.

What does panning do?

What does that accomplish? It keeps the subject recognizably sharp, but makes the background a blur. We’re used to looking out the car window and watching the scenery go by so quickly that it’s a blur. That’s how we know that we’re moving and how fast. This isn’t a great shot, but it has some interesting things helping it out.

  • The back ground light coming from behind the rabbit is mottled. That pattern of light and dark accentuates the feeling of blur and speed.
  • The backlight coming through the rabbit’s ears makes them stand out and look pink.
  • He’s caught in mid-hop, so the bulk of his body is stationary. You can clearly read “rabbit” from the ears and cottontail.

Why did I say it was instinct and luck? I had set the basic exposure, but left the camera on automatic. Because it was getting late in the day and I was in the shadows, the camera opted for a slow shutter speed serendipitously. When I saw the rabbit start to move, I followed the movement out of habit and practice.

I’m not a hunter, but I was a decent shot and was pretty good for an amateur the couple of times I tried shooting skeet. There’s not a whole lot of difference between shooting with a camera and with a gun. (Except that the rabbit gets to run  away to eat clover another day.)

What a difference a millisecond makes

The time stamp on the photo is exactly the same as the shot above. That means they were both shot less than a second apart. It’s less successful (in my opinion). You can see the rabbit is in a different point in his hop. His hind legs are rotating down, which causes a blur within the blur of his body. His front legs must be moving back, because his fur is also a blur in a different direction. He’s moved out of the nice backlighting, so his ears aren’t as nicely defined. His head has moved to an angle where he could almost pass for a cat were it not for the cottontail. He’s also quite a way off 90 degrees from the camera, so the blur doesn’t work quite as well.

This is a technique that you don’t use often, but it’s very effective when it works and it’s not hard to do with a little practice. In the old silver film days, it cost money to practice if you actually pushed the button and exposed the film, so we’d sit on the side of the road and practice following cars as the drove by. It’s critical that you do your pan in a smooth, level movement. With digital cameras, it doesn’t cost you anything to actually press the release. Do it.

I’ve never used it, but my strobe and camera have the ability to add another dimension to this technique. You select a slow shutter speed and start your pan. When the shutter is open and you’re following the subject, you get the nice movement blur behind subject. Just before the shutter closes, the strobe will go off, freezing the subject cold. You get the best of both worlds: the illusion of speed, PLUS a tack-sharp subject at the end.




What’s Happening in this Photo?

Most pictures and assignments are pretty straight-forward: you are going somewhere where something is happening and you’re going to try to capture the essence of it. Joe is going to throw the football to Sam. You are going to try to photograph what happens. Easy enough, right?

Sometimes when you look at your film, though, you have to ask yourself some combination of the questions:

  • What in the world is REALLY going on here?
  • What was I thinking when I pushed the button?
  • Why are those people looking at me like that?

The assignment above was to cover Cape Central’s Class of 1965 Senior Party. While Cherie Pind is obviously making an enthusiastic point, Sally Wright and Jim Stone, in the background, are totally tuned out to their surroundings. I think that’s Dale Williams in the background with the bemused expression.

Outside Democratic Headquarters

I have a single frame of these gentlemen standing outside the Democratic headquarters in 1964.I was probably there for some kind of political feature.

There’s no context on the roll for why I happened to notice them. I like the guy puffing away on the cigar and the body language of the guy on the left. It would be fun to know what they were discussing.

Different angle or did I trip?

This is obviously a parade of some kind with the Jackson High School Band marching by. I was either trying a different angle; tripped and dropped my camera, accidentally firing the shutter,  or was trying to appeal to the shoe fetish element of our subscribers. Today’s newspapers probably hired a focus group to calculate just how many of the latter there are. That’s why our local paper runs so many stories about shoes.

What prompted THIS reaction?

I think this is Marilyn Knehans. I know Jon Knehans is on the left. I recognize his deputy’s patch.

What’s going on?

It  COULD have been her reaction if I had asked her for a date. Since I’m sure I didn’t have the nerve to do that, it’s up to you to speculate about what’s going on.

I’m THIS old

This looks like it might have been taken on a Missourian food feature. I have no idea why the kid is holding up the three fingers or who he’s showing them to. He’s pretty serious about it.

Since I wasn’t good at studio work, I tried to avoid shooting food and other products. I was geeky enough to come up with some ideas of how to make food look more appealing for the guys who DID shoot it. I found some chemicals, for example, that would produce fake smoke that I could pipe into the food to make it look steaming.

Before I found the fake smoke, we used REAL smoke. Real smoke enough to set off the building smoke alarms, which caused a whole bunch of guys with hoses and big trucks to show up. This was NOT a good thing.

Is that a come-hither look?

I think this was shot when I was at The Jackson Pioneer. When I looked at the film the other night, I was wondering if the blonde was giving me a come-hither look. Then I analyzed the photo and realized that was unlikely for a couple of technical reasons:

  • It was taken in the dark, so she probably couldn’t see me BEFORE the photo was taken.
  • After the photo was taken, she would have been blinded by the flash.

If it truly was a come-hither look, I’m sorry that I didn’t catch it for about 45 years. I was always a little slow on the up-take.

Like an animal at the zoo

Why these kids are looking at me like some kind of zoo animal, I don’t know. That’s my Buick station wagon they are peering into, but I don’t know what caught their interest. I do note that the door is locked.

See all of those scratches and spots on the lower left side of the photo. I got tired of spotting the flaws and started to pitch it, but then I thought I’d post it as an example of a Before and After shot (see below for the Before).

I decided, instead on writing about the Bald Knob Cross photos because they were better examples of how both cropping AND technical magic could make something out of nothing. This shot, while an interesting spot removal exercise, would never be much more than a record shot.

Scratches and flaws supreme

Here’s the original photo after I had adjusted the lightness and darkness of the main subjects, but before I started spotting out the scratches and flaws. If you click on the image to make it larger, you’ll see a big white spot on the chin of the girl on the right and a spidery dust speck on her lips. Click on the left and ride sides and you can rock back and forth to compare them.

In the final version, I had made the headliner at the top of the door darker to keep your eye on the faces and darkened the door frame to try to hide (unsuccessfully) some of the scratches. I managed to eliminate or minimize all of the scratches on various body parts.

At some point, you cut your losses and decide that you’d rather spend more time on pictures that have more significance. (No offense meant, if any of the trio are readers.)